Covington, Kentucky

Obama Watermelon Display Gets Response from State Commission

A life-sized mannequin depicting President Barack Obama holding a piece of watermelon in Casey County, Kentucky has gotten a response from the state's Human Rights Commission. Danny Hafley, owner of the property on what is described a well-traveled road, says that people are reading the display the wrong way. From LEX18:

"The way I look at it, it's freedom of speech," said Danny Hafley. "I don't know how other people will take it."

Hafley bought the Obama mask on sale after Halloween and put up the display around the time of November's presidential election.

The mannequin, dressed in a grey suit, clip-on tie and blue-collared shirt, was originally standing in Hafley's yard but the homeowner decided it would look better near the road.

"That's my buddy," Hafley said. "He don't talk. Don't make no smart comments. If I had a dollar for everyone who stopped and took a picture of it I'd be a millionaire."

When asked the reason behind the watermelon, Hafley responded that he thought the figure "might get hungry standing out here."

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights weighed in on the controversy Wednesday. “Regardless of the racial composition of the many towns and counties across the state, most Kentucky communities know how to welcome diversity and demonstrate common courtesy to other people no matter their differing physical or other attributes," said John J. Johnson, executive director of the state agency. "Perhaps Mr. Hafley would also like to be treated with decency and respect by members of his community." 

“The so-called yard display sends a message of hatred and blatant disregard of one’s fellows. I can imagine that the larger citizenry of the town of Liberty and Casey County is embarrassed by this piece of news, and I am confident this is not the attitude of the majority of citizens in Casey County.” Johnson continued, “The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights believes in the people of Casey County and that the local officials and community at large will discourage any such pitiful display and the backwardness that such an antic communicates to the entire world.”

Johnson, on behalf of the commission, sent letters to Casey County Judge-Executive Ronald Wright and Liberty Mayor Steve Sweeney urging them and other officials in the area to discourage this type of activity. The letters said the effigy in a yard of one of their constituents is a throw-back to eras when such symbols were used to demean and stereotype as inferior African American people who were enslaved, segregated and abused.

The most recent census statistics show that the African American population of Casey County is 0.7 percent, with a majority of 97.9 percent of the population being white.

Source: news release, LEX18

Photo: Sent through news release and described as property of LEX18